Tuesday, July 18, 2017

POSKEM - Goa’s Unspoken Children Of The Shadows

"Butterflies and bats flying at furious pace in my stomach" - Wendell Rodricks

A few thoughts behind Poskem. I promised Rosa this book. It stayed in my mind that I should write a book. This is my first fiction book. 

It took me about a year to form the characters in my mind. There were also two sticky areas that unnerved me. The intimate scenes essential to the book and the magic realism that I wanted in this dark book. I managed to hurdle over both eventually.

I wrote the book rather quickly. Passed it through a few friends for a reaction, edits & so on. Mario Miranda's illustrations, generously provided by Habiba Miranda and sourced from Gerard D'Cunha, filled in the gap of the non-description needed by the book. They enhanced the narrative perfectly. We now had the book and the illustrations laid out with blurbs from the contributors, and after three more edits, I signed off the book. Jerome ran through the book after printing and found six misspellings.

After 'sign off', preorders were pitched to Amazon.

Waited for a month when the book was finally in my hand. I held it in my hand with the emotion that only writers know. It looked beautiful. My baby Poskem arrived to a doting Dad.

With his novel 'Poskem - Goans in the Shadows', Wendell Rodricks has brought the tradition from the shadows of the background to under the limelight. 

Of these children, Goa had its fair share, to the extent that a well closeted tradition called poskim evolved around them. Almost all the incidents in the novel are based on true stories he heard from his mother and relatives, he says. 

Talking about the catalyst behind the book, Rosa, a poskem who lived across the street from Rodricks in Colvale, he says, "She looked after a big house and always appeared dejected and alone. We would often talk about food." 

The writing is fluid and engaging and gently takes you deep inside Goa in a way which as a beach shack loving tourist you might not have had. It uses a fictional tone to talk about Goan history and culture without making it sound like a lecture. And there is lots of food talk for food lovers in it and this is woven in seamlessly into the narrative. Wendell's love for Goa comes through in every sentence.

The book is based on the tradition of children from poorer backgrounds who would be taken into affluent Goan families and the many shapes this relation would take. Such children were called Poskem.

If you read the book, you will realise why Poskem
- Kalyan Karmakar -

This book is unlike anything I had read earlier, had no prior knowledge about this issue. It was an education to start with. Mario Miranda's funny illustrations and the double-spaced typeface give you a feeling that this is going to be a fun ride as a perfect read for a rainy afternoon.

Banish the thought, for what unfolds here will jolt you. Did these incidents actually happen? Apparently they did! Was it a well-kept secret outside Goa? Seems so, And those recipes coming at you every now and then, while the characters are going through personal hell? Makes you wonder; What genre is this? Is it a cook book with some dark local stories thrown in ? No. Is it a coffee table book about old Goa with some local recipes thrown in? No. It is a look inside a dark past and what you see isn't pretty at all. As the writer calls it, "a shameful practice".

Wendell Rodricks, this is a terrific piece of story-telling... demonstrates your usual encyclopedic knowledge of customs, practices, events and people, not to forget the culinary & language / narrative skills that you obviously possess in great measure!. Such a pleasure reading this one. "More strength to you", W ! -
Manohar Duvvuri

"The next generation may not know about the poskim. I don't want to blame people for having them. It was something that happened in the past. Sometimes history can be a shameful thing. This is part of Goan history. It's not that it didn't happen. I wrote the book to ensure that these secrets are not consigned to the forgotten secrets of Goans," says WR.

Friday, March 24, 2017

T H E C U B I S T R O S E - Schulen Fernandes for Wendell Rodricks

Inspiration? Not really. "The coincidence is just a stroke of creative forces" says' Wendell Rodricks

"Cuekee"; that's what they call me. Cucumber Cool before a show...always. #TheCubistRose rehearsal a half hour away and yours truly a sea of calm in a frenetic fashion place. - WR

Schulen Fernandes presents The Cubist Rose for Wendell Rodricks in a path breaking collection that celebrates the rose in a new cubist avatar. In a symphony of reds, oranges, pinks and purples off set with teal green, nude peach and pale blue, The Cubist Rose cuts a striking colour palette for autumn winter. At the core of the collection is not just a rose but the various interpretations in cut metallic leather, layered organza, floating georgette, satin silk, structured cotton satin, silken linen, Bemberg slub weave, poly crinkle and lush pashmina wool. The garments reflect the art of Cubism in keeping with the geometric philosophy of Wendell Rodricks. To this minimalist design statement, Schulen brings to the collection an infusion of youth and modernity in a worthy successor interpretation. Playing volume against slim silhouettes, structured forms with fluid flow and layering with lined garments, the entire collection is subtly infused with rose gold and silver accents. Innovations in design include jacket dresses, Cubist petal collars, 3D elevated leather cutwork, Harlequin technicolour blocking, angled silhouettes and hems. 

The Cubist jewellery/earings by Ayesha Accessories. Schulen Fernandes fuchsia and gold with purple heels, made by Stoffa Hersh Kolecha, Schulen Fernandes hand made the neck piece, Ambika Pillai makeup and hair 

This is Schulen Fernandes' second collection for the Wendell Rodricks label. As Creative Head, Schulen brings a refreshing creative expression to the two and a half decade old label from Goa. With The Cubist Rose, Schulen Fernandes proves a worthy successor to Wendell Rodricks and a formidable talent in her own right. 

The Cubist Rose collection by Schulen Fernandes for Wendell Rodricks unveiled at

Amazon India Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2017/2018  on 17th March at New Delhi. 




BEAUTY in itself is fragile. Something that is present and absent at the same time. A thought which one feels, that makes one react to itself while being seen through different hues. This world is in a state of chaos, where Beauty, in its truest sense is losing itself in the void. People are losing their homes, hopes, dreams. Regions are losing generations after generations to this outbreak and Beauty is being replaced by agony, despair and dead outcomes. It is the pathway between Beauty and the Dead that has been highlighted.

Dev r Nil's "The Valley of Missing Flowers" collection inspired by the picturesque - Conflict zones & the violence. Fraught with fragments of personal history, series is a revelation of the intimate stories that lie between the lines of conflict in one of the most violently contested regions in the world. - deeply evocative, powerful and persistent.

Treating its audience with different looks that included stripes, simple stripes, ikat feathers, metallics and meadows, 3D floral appliqué details and together made an exceptional combination. Shimmering zip down jackets with saris were seen on models walking the ramp. A black sheer outfit with a monochrome print lining and sequel detailing along with basic silhouettes, including shararas, kurtas, capes, kimonos, bandgalas, striped handloomed saris, trousers in hand and shaded machine embroidery, dominated with floral patterns with geometric lines and flower prints featuring embroidery.

Designs and surface embellishments inspired from the valley, enhanced by the surface details that were styled in a structured manner, contrasting with the fluidity of the silk, tissue and organza fabrics.

In colour range from Eckru to somber greys , muted greens to dusty blues contrasted with sudden hints of midnight blues ,reds and lime greens, almost as if hinting towards the bloom of an everlasting apriori state of Hope in the middle of hopelessness.

When violence becomes the only constant
The generations are lost
The flower gardens freeze…
It's white everywhere
The blanket of snow on a never-ending graveyard…
The spring which never came..
The flowers died before they bloomed…

"SUMMER RESORT 2017" Inspired by the works of Bharat Sikka on life and the aftermath of destruction in places where once beauty prevailed, where purity and serenity glowed brightly, aims to highlight this spectrum between the two gradients of Beauty and the Dead, in the hope that the natural priorities of the Human Soul be realized and treated in a manner ,as fragile as they are. Because, Beauty is fragile, Beauty is Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent.

In parts delicate and feminine;(frozen or dried in places) to be juxtaposed by the contrasting military like/ inspired styles. Fluidity is contrasted by the severity of structure. Using couture techniques in most part of the collection this collection is primarily targeted towards the Spring Summer couture and diffusion range.
The journey between two states of Being has been represented through the texture and prints showcased. The floral patterns lead into more rigid geometric lines. Likewise, floral prints and embroideries can be seen changing into more geometric printed curves and embroideries. Delicate thread work has been made to merge into more stark metallic shine, whereas glass pipe embroidery simultaneously has been used with the cutwork and appliqué to carefully show a contrast.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Ten Histories-Goan Costume:Text On Walls


Curated by Wendell Rodricks

The time is ripe for the recounting of Goan histories, opening a dialogue in Goan heritage and commencing a narrative about the rich legacy of Goa beyond the reputed beaches and famed natural beauty of a splendid land. A majority of visiting tourists that visit Goa are as astounded to hear stories from the hinterland as some Goans who imagine that Goan costume history begins and ends with the Portuguese.

Padma Shree award winning Goan fashion designer Wendell Rodricks, author of Moda Goa:History and Style and The Green Room, is presently working on converting his heritage home into The Moda Goa Museum in his native village of Colvale. In a pioneering curatorial presentation, he brings to the Serendipity Arts Festival 2016 ten objects related to Goan costume that are not mere museum objects. Each has a story worth recounting. A history about Goan mythology, Gods, people, customs, traditions, festivals and folklore. In a setting inspired from graffiti painted walls of religious sanctums, palatial manors and humble homes, the lacy effect of the Goan graffiti painting set the ambience of Ten Histories: Goan Costume.

Apart from the sole prehistoric photograph in the exhibition that has an engraved laterite rock to support it, the objects are part of a sixteen year collection that represent a minuscule part of what the Moda Goa Museum in Colvale will display when it opens in late 2018. This collection is an attempt to reveal Goan histories pertaining to costume. But it is also a door to open a dialogue with you the viewer. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged in our Vistors Comment book.

The Serendipty Arts Festival 2016 and Wendell Rodricks welcome you to Ten Histories: Goan Costume. 


Ten Objects: Goan Costume
(Text on walls)


Not many have seen the Usgalimal petroglyphs (rock art) at Pansaimol in South Goa. Reputed to be from the Upper Palaeolithic or Mesolithic period 20,00-30,00 years ago, discovered in 1993 near the Khushawati river; among the labyrinth spirals and bulls is a figure of what can be termed as a Mother Goddess with a swollen vaginal area. The vaginal cavity was possibly used to place offerings of flowers or scared powders to evoke fertility. On the Verna plateau, near Dabolim airport, is another colossal Mother Goddess that some historians claim is ancient. It was moved at great expense from a nearby village site. However the authenticity of this Mother Goddess is in doubt as some experts claim that the laterite is not old and was carved by idle stone masons from Pernem while they were working on a house in South Goa. Whatever the truth, the fact is the cult of the Mother Goddess, common to many ancient cultures worldwide, was prevalent in Goa. She is most often depicted without clothing.


While the Goddess ShantaDurga appears in most parts of India as a warrior goddess riding a tiger, in Goa she appears in a 'shanth', peaceful avtar. She sits on a lion and has a wide appeal for Goans who believe that she appears in dreams and asks for 'mangnechem' in the form of children, houses and saris. A child or home is consecrated in Her name by couples whose wishes are delivered. When a lady dreams that the Goddess requests a sari, a precious sari is offered to the temple. These are kept within the temple and considered sacred. They are later sold to the faithful who cherish these saris touched by the Goddess. Displayed here is one such sari from the ShantaDurga Mandir. The story of the ShantaDurga idol at Fatorpa and the celebration of the Sontrio (umbrella) festival by both the twelve Kshatriya converted Christian family clans and Hindus at Cuncolim is worthy of a recounting for it's rare communal harmony between two religions.


The Buddhist and Jain period in Goa is not spoken about for many reasons. Some blame the Muslims for destroying the Buddhists sites in Goa while others claim the destruction was by Brahmanical forces who were marginalised and later resumed power on the death of the Emperor Ashoka. Whatever the reason, it is important to note that it was during the Buddhist period of prosperity in India that guilds pertaining to textiles were formed. From weaving to dyeing, embroidery and trade, Buddhism left a legacy for the art of textiles. Each guild specialised in a part of the process from fibre cultivation to final product. In Colvale village, near Mapuca city, a large statue of the Buddha was found by Father Henry Heras in the field at Munshir in 1930. The statue is today preserved at the Heras Institute, St Xavier's, Mumbai. The sculpture in the vitrine of a man adorned with jewels and carrying a fly whisk on one shoulder, was found in the same field and donated to the Moda Goa museum due to open in 2018.

Lisa Ray in Kunbi Sari


The Kunbi sari, once woven in Goa, is an important clothing icon for the state. Worn by the Kunbi tribe that settled on the ancient Konkan coast, the sari was lost to history due to caste implications and the lack of weaving in Goa. Dyed in red, blue or black, the sari is woven in checks with a double row of dobby design at the border and draped with a single 'dentli' knot at the shoulder. The red saris were used for celebrations and the blue/lilac sari was worn by young widows. In 2010 designer Wendell Rodricks revived the Kunbi sari in his minimalist style using natural dyes and weaving the sari in Goa with Poonam Pandit. After almost a century of the sari not woven in the state, the Kunbi sari revival was widely acclaimed at India Fashion Week among fashionistas and cotton sari lovers. Displayed is the original Kunbi sari and the Wendell Rodricks version of the sari. See Kunbi culture with dance performances on 7-8 Jan 2017 at the Adivasi Sangatna Quepem festival organised by Advocate John Fernandes at Xeldem Panchayat ground in Quepem.


While Lord Krishna appears in India as a playful, romantic God with gopis, in Goa he appears in His Kshatriya warrior avtar to slay the Demon Goa Narkasur. Noted mythologist Devdutt Patanaik explains that burning an effigy is a post harvest ritual celebrating good over evil. The Narkasur effigy is burnt in the early hours before the Diwali dawn, when Goddess Laxmi is welcomed into homes and new account books opened. During the Portuguese rule in Goa (1510-1961) the coloniser imposed many edicts on the converted Goans via the Inquisition post 1560. Public displays of Hinduism were forbidden even though recent converts yearned for their old Gods. Converted Goans tried to keep their customs (Catholic brides wearing red/green bangles and returning home in a red 'sado' sari the next day). There are Catholic enclaves on the Konkan Coast where they burn an old man, often with a demon face, to herald the New Year. This seems to be a throwback to Narkasur to hoodwink the Portguese. Effigies are burnt in some Latin American places but not in Europe (except Guy Fawkes which is based on a political event). This points to the fact that the New Year burning did not come from the European colonisers. Did the Americas and Asia take this ritual from Goa like we took their new world fruits? In the 16th century trade by sea, there was endless cross pollination of ideas and customs. The burning of the Narkasur and in turn the Old Man may well be one of those traditions that went from Goa to the Americas and the Far East.


At the turn of the 20th Century, the famed Goan 'mandos' were composed. They were the basis to create an adapted Renaissance Western form of dance. While the men wore tuxedo coat tails, the ladies wore a garment called the Pano Bhaju. There were also less formal versions, some even worn at home. There are endless theories about the origin of the Pano Bhaju which is a sarong skirt with a blouse under a below waist level jacket. The embroidered motifs are taken from Persian Parsi ghara using the Chinese long and short stitch. Alternately for weddings, the embroidery was done in gold zari thread on velvet. The pattern pieces come from Central Asia. The sarong from Malacca, Indonesia or Malaysia. The blouse is European influenced. The chenillo shoes can be Persian or Chinese. With so many influences, and the fact that the very words Pano (cloth in Portuguese) and Bhaju (a generic word for clothes in Indonesia), the Pano Bhaju is a garment of many influences. The most likely is the Peranakan Chinese ladies as they came to Goa, jewellery and all. The origin of this hybrid garment exclusive to Goa is open to debate.


If it were not for the invasions from Central Asian countries (mainly around Uzbekistan) and their eventual domination in India, we would continue to wear drapes created from flat fabric like South India still does as they were not impacted by the invasions. Vedic Indian dress comprised nivi, vasa and adivasa (upper, lower, shawl or overdrape fabric pieces). Though the needle was known since Mohenjadaro and Harappa, it was used to sew leather. Cut pattern pieces came to India, Goa in turn, by the invading Muslims from Central Asia. In Goa, Deccani Muslims and Bijapuri Shahs left their mark on Goan clothing. Sheer effects, elaborate embroidery and jewellery appeared to a shocked local populace who marvelled at the splendid layered garments. Turbans for men and veils for women were a part of the clothing repertoire of the Deccani Muslims. Displayed is a gold 'zari thread' embroidered turban. Like most turbans of the 18 to 21st century, these turbans were not draped around the head but sewn from turban pattern pieces to fit the head of the wearer.



Goan leather sandals are made by the Chamar caste in the state. Chamar is a generic word for lower caste workers who deal with the treatment of leather and leather goods. Zottim are one of the sandal styles used till the 21st century. One can find Zottim sandals in some markets but the Chamars have dissolved into mainstream Goan working class. Their tradition of fine leather sewing continues. Displayed are 'Chabedeo' sandals made from the Kumbyo tree bark in Quepem, Zottin sandals and Goa's most creative shoe maker. Edwin Pinto has been involved in creative footwear since 1994, coaxed by designer Wendell Rodricks abandon his tailoring services to focus on footwear. Today at Janota in Porvorim, Edwin Pinto  creates beautiful, hand made, superbly finished footwear like the fish and bird styles displayed here from the Wendell Rodricks Tropical Island collection, Lakme Grand Finale 2008. The tradition of the Chamars via modern revivalist like Edwin Pinto continue Goa's sartorial style. 


There is a theory that people near the ocean are good at needle work because they make, and perfect, the art of crafting fishing nest. This is turn results in knitting, crochet and lace making. Till today it is not unusual to find a Goan lady indulging in needle work as a leisurely pursuit. The tradition of hand sewn, embroidered garments is many generations old in Goa. The art of needlework was applied to Holy pictures that were embroidered and framed in homes, bed linen, table cloths, grand crochet bed spreads, table covers, serviettes and handkerchiefs. Rarely seen are undergarments and lingerie. When the Moda Goa museum acquired a cache of garments from a kind donor that included pristine lingerie, it was a revealing testimony to the delicate and keen attention to detail on garments that were not seen by most, except spouses and family members. Displayed are fine lingerie examples from the early 1900's. Most can compete or possibly triumph over modern lingerie and sleepwear today. 


Gold has always been worshipped as the Goddess Laxmi. Which is why Konkan coast women never wear gold or precious stones on their feet. Anklets and toe rings are made in silver out of respect for the Goddess. A sect of Brahmins called Daivaidyana are jewellers renowned for their integrity,  trustworthiness and art in creating gold objects of great beauty, set with precious stones. When the Portuguese arrived in Goa in 1510, they realised the specialised artisans they had on hand. Contrary to who one would expect to be the first Indians to sail the seas to Europe, it was a group of Daivaidyana Brahmins, headed by Raulo Xett from Divar island, who were the first Indians to land in Lisbon ...and later welcomed at the courts of Spain and France. Displayed is a filigree gold cross, 18th-19th century attributed to an Abbess of the Santa Monica Convent, Old Goa. Drawings and photographs attest to the grand tradition of gold. The exquisite Daivaidyana golden heritage continues in Goa today.

Khoja turban with gold embroidery



Concept and Curation: Wendell Rodricks

Retreat 'N' Style India Pvt Ltd: Jerome Marrel, Mahesh Tuenker, Schulen Fernandes, Siddesh Chanekar, Vinayak Mandrekar.

The Serendipity Trust, Scenografia Sumant, Scoop Brand Holdings Pvt Ltd :  
Co-ordination and Production. Lirio Lopez Electrical & Lighting Consultant.
Nixon Fernandes for the Graffiti Stencil wall decoration.

Moda Goa: History and Style by Wendell Rodricks, Harper Collins, 2012

Historical and Location inputs for Moda Goa: History and Style by Prajal Shakardande. 

MOTHER GODDESS : Photograph by Mark Sequeira, Laterite stone: Vinayak Mandrekar with Mahesh Tuenker.

SHANTADURGA : Shahpuri Sari, originally Belgaum. On loan: Shreedevi Deshpande Puri.  ShantaDurga Temple idol photograph by Rajan Parrikar.

BUDDHISM IN GOA : Statue gifted to The Moda Goa Museum by Philip D'Silva. Photograph by Rafique Sayed at the Heras Institute, St Xavier's College, Mumbai.

THE KUNBI SARI : Original Kunbi sari and fragments on loan by Adv. John Fernandes, Quepem. Wendell Rodricks revival Kunbi sari woven by Poonam Pandit. Actress Lisa Ray photograph by Wendell Rodricks. Kunbi women at Tambdi Surla temple festival photograph by Mark Sequeira.

NARKASUR : Made by artisans Vallabh V. Chari and Mahesh Chari. Co-ordinated by Mahesh Tuenker.

THE PANO BHAJU : Jacket recreated by Schulen Fernandes based on the original by Telma Costa Gracias. Photographs by Mark Sequeira. 

PATTERN PIECES : Embroidered turban donated to The Moda Goa Museum by Maharukh Desai. Photograph of Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur and Sketches by Wendell Rodricks.

ZOTTIM : Chabodeo sandals made with Kumbyo tree bark. Sourced by Adv. John Fernandes, Quepem. Zottim from Mapuca Friday Bazar. Wendell Rodricks Tropical Island Collection, Lakme Fashion Week Grand Finale 2008 sandals designed by Wendell Rodricks, handcrafted by Edwin Pinto. Edwin Pinto photograph by Prasad Pankar.

THE ART OF NEEDLEWORK : 1930's (circa) lingerie donated to The Moda Goa Museum by Belisa D'Sousa e Ferreira. Model Masumeh Makhija photographed by Anand Seth.

GOAN GOLD : Gold crossed donated to the Moda Goa Museum by Catherine Pardi Alliott. Cushion by Schulen Fernandes at the Wendell Rodricks Studio. Sketches of Goan gold jewellery by Wendell Rodricks. Photographs of jewellery by Mark Sequeira (For Goan owners, refer Moda Goa, History and Style by Wendell Rodricks, Harper Collins 2012). 

Monday, September 12, 2016

"And Quiet Flows the Thread" by Vaishali S@NYFW

SS'17 Collection - And Quiet Flows the Thread, at Sustainable Fashion and Art show with artist Jeff Hong at the NYFW with FTL MODA on September 8, 2016 showcasing Indian weaves with contemporary silhouettes on the international platform of NYC. 

Her collection is an attempt to find a fine balance through knots and threads, depicting the flow of life. The idea is to carry this flow through the garments. The knots culminate at a point, which holds the entire garment together.

An  opportunity that will open an avenue not only for me and other designers, but also for the entire community of Indian textile makers and handloom weavers to get their craft noticed and acknowledged in the international fashion industry,

The colour palette consists of off-white, beige, shades of blue, grey and black. Textures ranging from knots and cords to loose, freely-hanging threads are the essence of the collection. Fabrics ranging from silk, khadi and Jamdani have been used extensively. Expect individualistic silhouettes in the form of jackets, dresses of varying lengths and aesthetically constructed drapes
Jamdani weave is the oldest, beautiful, intricate handwoven art from the state of West Bengal. In-spite of having access to minimal resources, the weavers create this beautiful art form using inspiration from their natural surroundings. Vaishali Shandangule is proud to bring this wonderful woven art to this stage.

The label will be sharing the same platform where international designers like Tom Ford, Vera Wang, Micheal Costello, Anna Sui and Alexandra Wang take centre stage. Of course, 
VAISHALI S’s step forward towards building the bridge which will allow us to share India’s centuries old hand weaving tradition, fine crafts and rich culture with the world.This opportunity will open an avenue not only for me and other designers but also for the entire community of Indian textile makers and hand loom weavers to reach out to the world. I am very very excited for this show. My team and I have worked very hard on the collection. I am hoping that it will give a lot of strength to my efforts for creating a presence for Indian weaves and crafts at the international fashion platform.
Showstopper was Reshma Qureshi, acid attack survivor and symbol of hope for all other survivors.

On the strength of its constantly growing industry recognition, 
FTL MODA presents a two-day show at NYFW next week under the CFDA calendar, and a new strong alliance. The world giant Samsung endorsed the most acclaimed producers at NYFW joining Fashion Week Online, and Global Disability Inclusion.

Continuing its work on the #IAmNYFW campaign, the FTL MODA team created the spin-off #TakeBeautyBack, to take a stand in the fight to stop acid attacks against women in developing countries.
The language of fashion speaks loud to the world also this season, thanks to a panel of international designers of excellence, selected with care and enthusiasm. Ten countries feature in the three shows with ethnic collections at the highest level, splendid styling and precious accessories.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Isabella Blow's life in clothes

"In the end I was just lips and a hat," she said. But Izzy was always more than the MAC lipstick she designed (they wouldn't let her call it Blow Job) and the Philip Treacy hats she wore to stop people from swooping in for air kisses. "Fashion is a vampiric thing. That's why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me."
While Isabella had her armor, I have a Please Don't Kiss the Baby sign stuck on my Kelly bag, because hats mess up my hair. Besides, who wants to be loved by the undiscriminating?
I never met Isabella, but I caught glimpses of her enough times to notice what we had in common. And what we didn't. She hated Egypt, and I know that I never want to go back to Cairo, even if it is the only place on the planet to get burnt orange toe paint.
The first time I saw her was in the Tatler office, where I'd gone for a summer job as a sub, but failed the test. "You're not boring enough," the editor told me, as he interviewed me in a closet. "We'll find you something else." I wondered if that meant samples to take home with me. Through a crack in the door, I saw a girl with her sweater open, revealing a black lace Rigby & Peller bra. The queen's lingerie maker never had better publicity than this corrupt angel. "That's Isabella Blow," he said, anticipating my unspoken question.
In those days her name was always followed by the story of her grandfather, Jock Delves Broughton, whose decadent life was made famous by the movie White Mischief, about sex-mad cokeheads in Kenya.
Death always hung over Isabella. This can be seen in Fashion Galore! in scrapbooks and press cuttings about her aristocratic ancestors. When she was a child, her baby brother drowned in a puddle on the grounds of their ancestral home. After his death, her mother moved to London and her father moved on to a new family, disinheriting her.
They never lived in Doddington Hall, but in a smaller house on the grounds. Isabella was homeless in her heart, empathizing with the tramps sleeping rough in Hanover Square park opposite Vogue House. She made art her home, dressing up as a magical installation. "Always accentuate the head and the feet," she said. Her feet belonged to Manolo Blahnik and her head to Philip Treacy, though she planned to have it sent to her father when she died.
Not exactly beautiful, at least in the classical sense, Isabella could have been the Duchess of Windsor on acid with a dash of dachshund on top. Except she didn't need the acid. She had a love-hate relationship with her bipolar self. She must have known she was glamorous, but Crohn's disease and her English teeth filled her with self-loathing.
The next time I saw her, she arrived hat-first to an art opening and effortlessly upstaged the artist Tracey Emin. "Who's that?" Mr. Lash asked. I told him the story about Isabella Blow's wedding dress, which was, like mine, designed by Nadia la Valle, a designer not heard from before or since. Isabella never managed to escape her marriage. Like Dorothy Parker, she could have left the husband and kept the name.
My last glimpse of her was through the window of her apartment in Eton Square. Her black head bowed over a pile of olives she was arranging on a plate, she looked like a sad majestic bird from an Edgar Allen Poe story, or the sculpture of her by artist-couple Webster and Noble that opens Fashion Galore!
A few weeks later she jumped off the Hammersmith flyover. She didn't die that day, but she couldn't wear Manolos anymore, a fate worse than death to a trivial but profound soul like Isabella Blow. It was only a matter of time before she finished the job and became a beautiful corpse dressed by Alexander McQueen, who joined her a few seasons later.
Before that, McQueen paid tribute to his mentor and muse in his show La Dame Bleu, creating a Bird of Light through which the models entered the runway dressed as Izzy lookalikes. This is recreated at the end of the Somerset House show. It reminds me of the moment in The Great Gatsby when Meyer Wolfsheim declines to go to Gatsby's funeral, saying, "Show your friendship to the man while he is alive." Or, reward the woman's contribution to your career by offering her a job when you get the top job at Givenchy.
Next time I wear my white fur coat, I'll spray it with Fracas and think of Isabella Blow.

by Vivien Lash